Strolling down West University Avenue past some of Muncie’s iconic local restaurants, it’s difficult to ignore a large “For Lease” sign hanging in the window of Queer Chocolatier.
Owner Morgan Roddy said her business needs a new location, but she will miss her current storefront.
“I feel very cozy in the Village, and I like a lot of the people that are there,” she said. “I love my neighbors and getting to say ‘Hi’ to them.”
With her lease expiring in March, Roddy must find a new property to move her business into. She said she needs a larger kitchen for her chocolate-making equipment.
“The pandemic really made that decision, in some ways, for me, but before that, there was the question of should I renew the lease and stay in that particular location longer,” she said. “The shift to becoming more of an online business really made it very clear that I need to have a bigger space for production.”
Visit Queer Chocolatier’s website to order delivery or pickup locally. Queer Chocolatier also ships to all 50 states.
Source: Morgan Roddy, Queer Chocolatier owner
Since March 2020, Queer Chocolatier has been closed for all in-person business, and Roddy said all orders are being taken online. She is fulfilling delivery orders for the local Muncie community and shipping domestically for online orders across the U.S. From mid-May through Labor Day 2020, Roddy said, she had to stop shipping orders because the chocolate would melt in transit.
“The tricky thing about being a chocolate business is in the summertime, I cannot ship chocolate,” she said. “There was like three months of it being very difficult. One of our customers actually helped us survive the summer by launching a GoFundMe to help us cover our overhead costs since we weren’t having very much business at that time.”
Daniel Todd, student life team leader at the Indiana Academy, created the GoFundMe, which he said Roddy was unsure about doing herself. He said he Facebook messaged Roddy in May 2020 asking if she had considered starting a fundraiser.
“She was adamant, being a for-profit business, that she didn’t feel right taking money from people, and I was very surprised by that kindness,” Todd said. “It inspired me to start the fundraiser on her behalf, which she gave me permission to do.”
The fundraiser has raised more than $11,000 for Queer Chocolatier so far. Todd said he was only expecting a couple hundred dollars worth of donations, but the fundraiser was shared widely on social media, and the original $6,000 goal was hit nearly overnight.
Todd said he orders online from Queer Chocolatier often and encouarges his Indiana Academy students to visit the shop.
“Whether it’s your 10th time there or your first time there, you’re greeted like you’re an old friend,” he said. “It’s a very welcoming space, and I think, no matter who you are, you can walk in and feel like you belong there.”
Roddy said the GoFundMe helped her pay for rent for May through September and allowed her to buy new equipment to prepare and store chocolate. She said delivery orders also increased when people heard the business was struggling.
“I think there’s been a lot of support for small businesses, and if it wasn't for that support, a lot more small businesses would have gone under during this time,” Roddy said. “I’m very grateful and appreciate that we’ve received so much support from that GoFundMe and just people continuing to order and spread the word about who we are.”
After the difficult summer, Roddy said, online sales have also increased, especially during Christmas and Valentine’s Day. Christmas 2020 sales were about the same as previous years, Roddy said, but Valentine’s Day 2021 was the most successful holiday season in the business’ history. Roddy estimated she made about 2,000 truffles for Valentine’s Day orders, with 85 orders to ship and 40 for local delivery. She said she’s “still in recovery mode right now.”
Online orders have primarily been from Muncie community members, but Roddy said she thinks about 60 percent of her usual in-person business comes from Ball State students and faculty.
“It’s a great safe space for students to be in with it so close to campus,” she said. “I would hope that if I do find another place, hopefully, we can still encourage students to come visit.”
Roddy said she wants to make sure Queer Chocolatier’s new storefornt is accessible.
“Maybe we can host meetings and events when the pandemic is in our rearview mirror,” she said. “Community and relationships is the absolute core of our business, and we’ll do everything we can to keep that going.”
Contact Grace McCormick with comments at email@example.com or on Twitter @graceMc564.